Scotland’s health and social services sectors, under pressure, will receive a record Â£ 18bn next year, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has confirmed.
Ms Forbes unveiled her draft budget for 2022-2023, saying spending cash here would help ‘deal with immediate pressure across the NHS’.
But with Holyrood Finance Secretary revealing his tax and spending plans less than a month after the Cop26 global climate change summit in Glasgow – and with the SNP now in partnership with the Scottish Greens in government – she pledged nearly Â£ 2 billion would go to decarbonising Scotland. houses, buildings, transport and industry.
Tackling climate change must be âthe defining mission of our generation,â Ms. Forbes said.
She confirmed plans already announced by Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon to double the Scottish Child Payment – a weekly allowance paid to low-income families with children – to Â£ 20 a week from April.
This will see ‘almost Â£ 200million in next year’s budget going directly to lifting Scottish children out of poverty,’ she told MSPs.
Here, she compared the actions of the Scottish government to those of the Westminster Conservatives, claiming that Holyrood was funding the ‘UK’s most ambitious anti-poverty measure’ while the UK government slashed universal credit by Â£ 20 a week .
Overall, over Â£ 4bn has been set aside for social security and welfare payments, of which Â£ 1.95bn will be used to fund the new adult disability payment in 2022-2023 .
Meanwhile, Â£ 110million will be used to fund the introduction of free bus travel for children under 22 from January, with Â£ 72million being used to extend free school meals to all children in the first five years of primary school.
Another pledge will see Â£ 831million spent on affordable housing, with Ms Forbes insisting the measure and others ‘will make a big difference’.
While Ms Forbes said her budget would address “key priorities” of tackling poverty, supporting the economy and tackling climate change, she acknowledged that it was a ” choice budget â- adding that there were some areas where she wished she had spent more.
With Covid funding cut, our daily funding next year is significantly lower than this year.
Although the Scottish government has received the largest overall grant from Westminster, the loss of specific funding for Covid means ministers at Holyrood have less to spend next year.
Ms Forbes said: âWith Covid funding cut, our daily funding next year is significantly lower than this year, at a time when we definitely need to invest in the economy and help utilities to straighten up. “
She also told MSPs that Brexit has had an impact as well, saying: ‘The budget I present today is smaller than it would be without the impact of Brexit on our economy – a Brexit that has was forced on Scotland against the express wish of the people who live here.
But the last two budgets having been drawn up to deal with the âimmediate experiencesâ of Covid, Ms. Forbes said with this package of measures that she sought to âlook up to the future, while of course remaining vigilant to the effects new variants â.
She said: “This is a transitional budget, as people, businesses and services get back on their feet.”
To help hard-pressed families coping with rising costs, she made little changes to income tax rates in Scotland.
The thresholds for the two lowest tax brackets – the starting rate and the base rate – will be raised based on inflation, the amount people need to earn before they start paying middle, top, and top rates. frozen.
“Our progressive Scottish income tax policy means that the majority of Scottish taxpayers will continue to pay less income tax than if they lived elsewhere in the UK, while those who earn more will pay more,” said said the finance secretary.
Speaking of the budget package as a whole, Ms Forbes said: âToday’s budget is a budget of choices, and we have chosen to tackle child poverty, invest in the transition to net zero and to stimulate economic prosperity.
âHe is delivering on our manifesto promises – more teachers, more funding for our police and a record investment in our health and welfare services, as we stand united against the impacts of Covid 19.
âThis is a budget for households facing a cost-of-living crisis, targeting the resources of low-income families and making bold choices to tackle the devastating impact of child poverty.
“This is a budget for a net zero future, which once again shows Scotland in the lead, in the defining mission of our generation.”
Scottish Conservative finance spokeswoman Liz Smith highlighted the “record block grant funding” Ms Forbes had received from Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the UK government.
Claiming that this had increased by 10.6%, she added that it proved “the benefits of Scotland being part of a strong UK” – something which she said was “more needed than ever”.
Labor finance spokesman Daniel Johnson said it was ‘fair’ for the NHS to get ‘most’ of the funding, but called on the Scottish government to pay staff Â£ 15 an hour social services.
Mr Johnson said: “Tough times demand bold action. But rather than rise to the challenge, this budget is simply a managed cut under the SNP.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has also argued that raising healthcare workers’ salaries will not bring ‘the transformational change we need’.
Ms Forbes has also pledged to raise public sector wages by Â£ 775 for those earning less than Â£ 25,000 a year, Â£ 700 for those earning Â£ 25,000 to Â£ 400,000 and Â£ 500 for those earning less than Â£ 25,000 a year. earn more than that, the Lib Dem added that it would be a pay cut in real terms for “teachers, nurses and several thousand public sector workers.”